Macron warns Hezbollah-dominated system will bring woes to Lebanon
BEIRUT – French President Emmanuel Macron called from Beirut for “political change” in Lebanon and a new “political contract” among the Lebanese, announcing at the same time that he was preparing to launch a political initiative related to Lebanon.
Macron also gave a grim warning to senior officials and party leaders in Lebanon. He said that the continuation of a situation in Lebanon where Hezbollah completely dominates the country and stores various missiles and weapons will bring about more woes.
Lebanese political sources revealed to The Arab Weekly that Macron stressed to all officials he met that the catastrophe that struck Beirut on August 4 was a small sample of what could happen to the entire country if it does not reconsider its posture.
So far, the Tuesday blast has killed at least 137 people, including a German diplomat, and injured 5,000 others. Dozens are still missing, while hundreds of thousands have suddenly become homeless as a result of the explosion.
In this regard, the French president, speaking in the presence of a representative of Hezbollah, MP Mohammad Raad, stressed that there is European concern that Israel could use the remaining few months of US President Donald Trump's first term in office to wage all-out war on Lebanon to get rid of Hezbollah's facilities for the manufacture of ultra-precision missiles.
He underscored that, under the current administration, the United States would provide cover for any Israeli war on Lebanon.
Macron’s words seemed to indicate that Lebanon cannot remain a viable state under the current ruling class and the adopted political formula on the one hand, and under Iranian hegemony through Hezbollah, on the other hand.
The French president promised to return to Beirut in September in order to attend the celebration of the centennial anniversary of the declaration of the Greater Lebanon state of 1920.
Macron arrived Thursday in Beirut less than 48 hours after the huge blast in the port of Beirut caused by explosive chemicals stored in one of the port's warehouses.
During his visit, the French president met with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Hassan Diab. Prior to the meeting, he toured the Christian neighbourhood of Gemmayzeh, which was partially destroyed by the explosion.
Following the meeting at Baabda Palace, Macron spoke to the press and expressed his hope that “investigations will be conducted as soon as possible in a completely independent and transparent framework so that it will be possible to know what happened and the causes of the explosion.”
He said that he felt “there was anger in the street,” noting that he had spoken with Aoun, Berri and Diab on the topic of “the political, moral, economic and financial crisis that has been going on for many years, with great candour.”
After that, he met the leaders of the Lebanese parties and representatives of the parliamentary blocs, namely: Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt, Sami Gemayel, Suleiman Franjieh and Samir Geagea, at the Pine Palace, the residence of the French ambassador in Beirut. MP Mohammad Raad represented Hezbollah in the meeting, while Christian MP Ibrahim Azar represented the Nabih Berri bloc, which includes the MPs of the Shia "Amal" movement.
Following his political meetings, the French President gave an emotional speech and tears welled up in his eyes as he said in Arabic: “I love you, Lebanon.”
During his tour on foot in the heavily damaged old neighbourhood of Gemmayzeh Street in east Beirut, the French president was greeted by crowds chanting “The people want to bring down the regime” and “Help us.”
“My friend, today I’m here to propose to them (the politicians) a new political pact, and I will be back on September 1,” Macron said in a confident tone, addressing one person in the crowd.
No Lebanese official has yet taken to the street after the explosion, which destroyed large parts of the capital, and left 137 dead and more than 5,000 wounded, while the Lebanese have been busy for two days cleaning rubble and glass and trying to repair what was possible to repair of their homes and shops.
A woman wearing a face mask and gloves approached Macron and complained about her situation and the country’s condition. The French president held her hands while listening intently to her before embracing her tightly in a moving scene at a time when social distancing because of the pandemic was the norm.
Some people in the crowd shouted at Macron not to hand over French aid to the government. “I assure you that the process will be transparent,” Macron responded, “and the aid will go directly to the field and we will make sure it won’t land into corrupt hands.”
“I am here to launch a new political initiative. This is what I will be telling the Lebanese officials and political forces,” continued Macron, indicating the need to embark on “making reforms (…), changing the system of government, putting an end to the divisions and fighting corruption.”
On his arrival at Beirut Airport, Macron said in his answer to a journalist’s question about reforms in Lebanon that “the priority today is to help and support the population without conditions. But it (carrying out reforms) is a requirement that France has been pushing for months, not to say years, indeed, reforms that are essential in certain sectors.”
The president also said that he wished to have a “dialogue of truth” with Lebanese officials, “because beyond the explosion, we know that the crisis here (in Lebanon) is serious. It implies a historic responsibility of the local leaders.”
“If the reforms are not implemented, Lebanon will continue to sink,” Macron warned.
On Thursday, Lebanese Foreign Minister Charbel Wahba said in an interview with Radio Europe 1 that an investigation committee had been established and it “should submit its report on the responsibilities involved within four days,” adding that “there will be judicial decisions.”